August 3, 2016
The Silent 25
Donald Trump has been dismantled, deconstructed and debunked so thoroughly (by the press, by twitter, by his own words), yet he still polls high. Common sense would suggest that his poll numbers would have dropped by now. No rational person can justify supporting him in the face of such overwhelming evidence of his buffoonery, xenophobia, dangerous megalomania, etc. So then, why are we not seeing a drop in the polls?
One possibility to explain this is that amongst his supporters are actual racist misogynistic xenophobes, who very much like a candidate who “gives them permission” to openly own the views they have been holding in (while seething) because of “political correctness.” These are single issue voters in that they will vote for Trump for this reason alone, no matter what other nonsense he spews.
But if I had to estimate, I would guess that openly racist xenophobes account for no more than 15% of Americans. I’d like to think it was much less, but let’s say somewhere between 5% and 15% of Americans hold these views and are supporting Donald Trump.
To that, add another 5% for diehard Republicans who will vote for their party nominee (i.e., Trump) come hell or high water. They’re not engaging in nuanced debates on the merits, they’re voting Republican, period, end of story.
So generously, that’s 15%-20% of his support. Yet still, Trump’s actual polling numbers put his supporters at around 45%-48% right now. That still leaves at least 25% of his support unaccounted for.
In my opinion, engaging this silent quartile is the key to this election.
On the one hand, rational people need no persuading, and on the other, the genuinely racist amongst us are irredeemable or out of reach.
That said, much of the commentary now – and my tweets are no exception – has focused on highlighting the obvious: that Trump is a hypocritical wannabe megalomaniac. He is also a willfully-uninformed, thin-skinned, egotistical fraud who has zero interest in helping America or ordinary Americans.
Yet these inescapable truths won’t work on racist xenophobes, and they have, by now, already convinced the sane amongst both parties (and independents) that Trump is a genuine threat to democracy in this country and cannot be allowed to hold office/seize power.
So then, what language must be used to reach the silent, mystery 25% (the Silent 25)? If neither hateful bigotry nor simple reason and common sense drive these voters, then what does?
If you’re a lifelong Republican, wake up to the reality that an imposter has hijacked your beloved party. He does not represent you.
If you’re BernieOrBust or NeverHillary, you must now put aside your reservations and take a hard look at the dangerously real alternative.
If you hate Hillary so much that you haven’t thought through the looming disaster that is a Trump presidency, then think it through.
Fervent anti-Hillary voters need to do the following: 1) Stop Trump, period; and 2) then use the next four years to generate support for a real alternative candidate and/or take your party back. Come back strong – tan, rested and ready, as it were – and be ready to kick ass in 2020.
For the rest of us, we need to reach out to the rest of the silent 25 and help them reach the light to stop this hateful buffoon from destroying America.
And let us make no doubt about it, if Donald Trump is elected, he surely will destroy our great nation.
Enough is enough. Let’s do this!
August 4, 2016
A Pause in the Onslaught
Trump has been mostly silent today. I’m sure his team is fervently hoping this is a sign that he is finally heeding their increasingly ardent pleas for him to show some goddamned restraint for a change.
Not likely. Much more likely that he has been temporarily brought up short by the newly-released poll numbers. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released today, shows Clinton with a 9-point lead, while a McClatchy-Marist poll, released earlier today, shows Clinton with a 15-point lead (48% to 33%).
The ego goblin feasts on polling data, and the news had to come as a slap in the face. Of course, if he continues to poll poorly, he will switch gears and likely return to his “system is rigged” trope. He has just as many reality-avoiding mechanisms in that bloated head of his as he requires to maintain his grossly-inflated self-image.
As shown again today in his doubling down on his “saw a video of cash transfer to Iran” (demonstrably false, there is no such video), he is not one to let facts get in the way of whipping up outrage against Obama/Clinton in his flock. Like the “thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the 9/11 attacks” (again, never happened), he doesn’t blink or hesitate in telling absolutely fabricated “events” to suit his narrative. And if you already support his Muslim ban/deportation plan, the story fits nicely with what you believe is true.
Trump is Trump and no one should expect him to change an iota. As I have written previously, I believe the phenomenon most in need of in-depth analysis by the media is the Silent 25. Reporters have at their disposal facts and contacts that might unearth who these people are and why they continue to support Trump, despite all rational argument to the contrary. Yet, it largely remains undiscussed.
One clue today might well lie with these dramatically changing poll numbers. It may well be that my original estimation of the number of die-hard Republicans who are supporting him was significantly lower than it is in fact. Perhaps instead of 5% of his support, the percentage of his supporters who back him merely because he is the party nominee is significantly higher, or was until recently, when the number of defectors from within the party started to grow into a groundswell.
This is good news for the free world, as this is a demographic that can be reached with hard and continued evidence that the guy is a dangerous demagogue. Unlike the heretofore “closeted” racists, who couldn’t care less about the facts or truth so long as his presence on the national stage gives them tacit permission to be more open in their hateful worldview. This is the crowd that feels cowed by the yolk of political correctness.
Of course, not openly holding hateful views of minorities, foreigners, women and LBGTs isn’t merely politically correct so much as simply correct. But that self-evident truth isn’t going to be resolved by one essay or a dozen.
So Trump pauses briefly today while he recalibrates his strategy, while what remains of the Republican Party nervously, slowly edge their way towards the exits.
None of this analysis would be necessary if Trump hadn’t consistently polled (and won primaries) far in excess of the ludicrous core of his candidacy. Trump – in his words and deeds – would remain unchanged. But he would be largely ignored, and the world would continue to turn on its axis. Yes, the media might still give him untoward attention given the outlandishness of his brash statements, but he would be a sideshow at most.
As matters stand, however, it is precisely because he has continued to garner support and votes, that the media feeding frenzy continues unabated. This, in turn, continues to feed his ego and prompt him to continue making brash, offensive statements, which the media then devours and regurgitates and the frenzy continues.
But for the preposterously high level of support he continues to garner, he would be an asterisk. So my attention continues to focus on exactly who these silent supporters are, and what is actually driving them. They are both the key to understanding the Trump phenomenon and the key to soundly defeating him. And let’s not forget that he must not merely be defeated, he needs to be stomped on and ground in to the topsoil.
From a purely pragmatic standpoint, he must be trounced lest his inevitable claim of a rigged election gain any actual traction. But in a broader sense, he must be soundly defeated to ensure that his hateful megalomania be roundly denounced as a notion. America cannot be a nation that can be fooled into putting such a person in the White House.
August 12, 2016
The Beginning of the End?
For a point of reference, Mr. Trump has, in the past 48 hours:
1) incited “the 2nd amendment people” to quasi-slyly suggest the use of guns to stop Hillary from appointing liberal Supreme Court justices;
2) flatly stated, repeatedly, that Obama created ISIS, and
3) accused CNN of not understanding the meaning of SARCASM re #2.
So everyone back on the crazy train – no further stops scheduled.
I had originally intended this to be a travel blog, and/or a place to work on essays and other random writing. Circumstances now compel my attention towards the imminent political crisis posed by the Donald, but I eagerly look forward to turning my focus away from the train wreck that is Election Season 2016.
I just don’t think we’re there yet. The threat is very real and imminent. Now is the time to speak up and speak out, before “happy hour is enforced by law.” (Dead Kennedys: “Last call for alcohol. Last call for your freedom of speech. Drink up. Happy hour is now enforced by law.” Copyright © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.)
This blog’s (original title) – This Modern World – is taken, by the way, from a column I wrote for a local neighborhood newspaper in the mid-1990’s, before entering law school, and is intended to reflect contemplations and musings on the curious intersection between us humanoids and the technological age in which we find ourselves – unique in all human history. I didn’t and don’t mean it to be as weighty as all that, but rather as a simple springboard premise for my considerations of existence. “Swimming in this real thing I call life,” to borrow a phrase from McConnell/Anastasio/Marshall, and an effort to “bring a few companions on this ride.”*
*Strange Design, Anastasio/Marshall © Who Is She? Music, BMI, http://phish.net/song/strange-design/lyrics
August 17, 2016
The Beginning of the End? Part 2
The above piece was written last week and left unfinished. The landscape meanwhile continues to blur past, as it is wont to do for all passengers riding, willing or otherwise, on Trump’s Crazy Train.
“Finally the tables are starting to turn…”
Tracy L. Chapman © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Fortunately, the latest polls have (finally!) begun to signal the beginning of the end of all this madness. Still more than 2.5 months to go before Election Day 2016, but the inevitable and grisly electoral math is starting to add up to a landslide of doom for Cinnamon Hitler.
For this I am deeply grateful. While it is no time to let one’s guard down – he must never be president – NEVER – I will nonetheless welcome a time when my time, thoughts, attention, tweets and writings can move off of his incessant madness and on to other subjects. I have spent much of the last 12 months wondering where to bottom lies, when people will finally get off his bandwagon.
I continue to believe that such attention is and has been wholly warranted – I don’t know that America has ever before faced the imminent possibility of actual fascism taking center stage. Under such circumstances, I believe it is critical for those who see what’s going on to speak out, repeatedly and loudly. So if e.g., your favorite comedian has stopped being funny while their attention is diverted by a looming monstrosity, be chill. Once the threat is gone, their humor will soon enough return to less politically-oriented topics.
Meanwhile, I will eventually go back to making quasi-wry cultural and philosophical observations, travel essays and short fiction excerpts, and otherwise enjoying life in this modern world, unfettered by notions of fascism and doom.
This will not stop me from taking a moment one day soon for a searching examination of the horror show that has been (and is) the Republican Party in the 21st Century. It remains to be seen whether the party will even survive Trump’s hijacking of it. Unquestionably, the party’s internal decay and rotted moral core set the stage for the great hijack of 2016. Is this the year the party draws its final breath?
One further question will remain in the aftermath, as well; a question more cultural and sociological than purely political, although it was through politics (and specifically the politics of our orange wannabe megalomaniac) that the issue was unearthed. To wit, how racist are we?
The question arises for me in my quest to discovery the Silent 25, discussed here previously. Exactly what percentage of Trump supporters are overtly racist? What portion of Americans harbor antipathy, anger, resentment and similar hateful or negative emotions and attitudes towards African-Americans (and other non-whites)?
I had, perhaps quite naively, thought that number (as a percentage of the population) to be quite low – maybe 5 to 15%. I have now been forced to abruptly reconsider that assessment as sadly underestimated.
Of course the white power crowd has never gone away entirely, and need no further examination here, other than to note that Trump has empowered them to lurk in the shadows no longer.
No, I’m thinking now of those people, outside of the Aryan Nation, who nonetheless continue to contribute to the stain left over as residue of this nation’s shameful history of slavery.
And yes, shameful is the right word. The notion of political correctness has never been more than a call for people not to be an asshole out loud. People who are tired of being “politically correct” are people who are tired of feeling societal pressure to stifle their hateful thinking. It is very difficult not to consider “make America great again” to be code for “make America white again,” harkening back to a day when niggers, spics, wops, slopes, slant-eyes and women rode in the back of society’s bus. If we, as a society, can’t get people to stop thinking in that hateful way, at least let’s all agree to keep such thoughts to yourselves until you get woke.
Trump’s candidacy has scratched the surface of America to reveal a dark, ugly racist underbelly, still very much alive and now ready to breath fire.
The question remains, how many of us?
It’s not just the Trump phenomenon, of course. This question is revisited every time we ponder the horror of unarmed black citizens being shot to death by police during a “routine” traffic stop, and when we consider the thinly-veiled efforts of state legislatures to enact voter-suppression laws or to deny convicted felons who have served their time – paid their debt to society – the right to vote, knowing full well that the laws and enforcement overwhelmingly and disproportionately impact black communities – Jim Crow in another guise.
In the aftermath of the rise of Trump we will be forced, as a nation, to again confront the ugly specter or racism and bigotry, as it now apparently continues to flourish in our society and culture.
It would seem that we have not come so far after all.
August 30, 2016
Some Final Thoughts on the Silent 25
I took a self-imposed hiatus from all media things Trump for two consecutive days (of 24-hours each) last week. Restorative.
I am genuinely weary of this political season, and look hungrily towards its conclusion. The two days off allowed me to clear my head, but it also turned out to be an emotional respite as well. Watching your nation turn to idiot fascism is fairly draining in the aggregate.
I intend to actually get off my ass this election and pitch in somehow, perhaps volunteering in Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, possibly in Arizona – one state over from California – where individual votes might actually matter.
My vote in California matters notionally and symbolically, but in actual fact, not so much. California is one of the bluest of blue states – I think Nate Silver projects the state going democratic with a 99.6% probability. http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/california/
Thus, as in many presidential elections held in my lifetime, my actual vote will not actually matter. My vote matters for other reasons (symbolically as noted above, and as an expression of citizenship, but it’s a long way from being somehow outcome determinative. So too would any GOTV efforts in the Golden State. California is a done deal this election – as far as presidential politics is concerned.
There will certainly be a lot of other good reasons to vote here – the ballot will be chock-a-block with so-called “down ticket” options and ballot initiatives (California’s annual “do your job” message to state legislators, though it’s a message that is routinely ignored as such, in terms of modifying behavior of legislators).
So if I want to “put my money where my mouth is,” as it were (what a filthy expression, btw) and actually do something that might increase the likelihood that Cinnamon Hitler never seizes the reins of power, I am going to have to hoof it out the I-10 or I-8 and latch onto a volunteer organization in Joe Arpaio’s red neck of the woods.
Most of that kind of mobilization is still a number of days off, so in the meanwhile, I bide my time, watch the polls, and contemplate the fall of western civilization as currently incarnated in the Trump candidacy.
To that end, I want to close the loop on my analysis of the Silent 25 (see prior posts beginning with August 3, 2016) – i.e., that curiously hidden demographic comprising some 25% of Trump’s supporters – the percentage that upgrades him from a chuckle-inducing buffoon to an actual, terrifying threat to democracy.
To recap, Trump is currently polling at around 42% to 45% of the vote. If 20 to 25 percent of those are abject racists and hardcore Republican Party loyalists, that still leaves 20-25% of his support unaccounted for – the Silent 25.
The reason I continue to find the question of the Silent 25 to be not only pertinent, but paramount to understanding this election is just what I have said: But for the Silent 25, Trump is a sideshow. With the Silent 25 supporting him, he is a genuine danger with which to be reckoned.
Admit it. If Trump hadn’t swept through the field of Republican primary contenders, he might actually be an enjoyable distraction in an otherwise typically stoic election season. We’d welcome his sticking around just to hear what crazy stuff he comes up with next.
But given that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the humor drains out of his bigoted, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic-laced fascism real quick. If not for the Silent 25, he would be no threat at all. He’d just be the unhinged egomaniac he always has been, but nothing more.
Regardless of the current polling and projections that paint his chances of winning the presidency as dim and fading, he may yet be actually elected. It’s real. And if he is elected, victory will come through the as-yet-unseen hands of the Silent 25.
The abject racists – the first demographic I identified as comprising Trump’s base support (and who, as a known or otherwise identifiable entity, lie outside the Silent 25) – will likely always be amongst us. And it’s a free country so they can go ahead and think that hateful shit, if they must (while the rest of us meanwhile continue to systematically eliminate ways in which they might turn their hate into actions that impact others). But Trump cannot be elected president on a campaign of dog whistles to haters. Whatever the actual number of living, breathing racists supporting Trump, they are not numerous enough for him to garner 270 votes in the Electoral College. Moreover, if his constituency were composed of haters alone, he wouldn’t have even won the primaries/nomination. He wouldn’t have gotten through the Republican Party gauntlet, let alone remain an actual threat to win the general election.
So since the hate demographic alone cannot explain the Trump phenomenon, the riddle of the Silent 25 remains pertinent – critical even – to understanding this bizarre, unprecedented election season, and ultimately, to driving this vaudevillian orange puff pastry back into the relative obscurity of a life of stamping his name on buildings, golf courses, ersatz universities, steak knives and whatever else.
Without the Silent 25, we could alternately laugh at, ridicule or simply ignore Trump at our leisure, and get on with the business of choosing our next leader from two otherwise unpalatable options. With the Silent 25 in the mix, today remains a time requiring utmost vigilance.
So I want to know: Who are the Silent 25?
I have been scouring the voluminous offerings of political analysis available to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection these past weeks in search of the Silent 25. I had originally thought that MSNBC or CNN might, in their breathless 24/7 coverage of all things election 2016 (and specifically all things Trump), provide some clue about whom I’m talking.
That is a fool’s errand, as most of cable news’ analysis makes mockery of the word “analysis,” and I find them hard-pressed to analyze anything in any depth despite countless panels of “experts” pontificating the day and night away.
In their defense – or half-heartedly so – analysis is not what cable news is about; it’s not their bread and butter. Cable news much prefers to focus on the latest outrageous crap spewing from the Ego Goblin’s festering gob, of which there is seemingly no end. Sound bites and Neilson ratings hold sway.
Yet even in print journalism (and various online equivalents), like The New Yorker, Politico, Real Clear Politics, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., I have had difficulty locating any probing analysis of Trump’s voter demographic. I would have thought this a fundamental question, not some high-brow, ivory tower musings, and thus a topic plastered across the airwaves, not tucked away in some article that has slipped past my attention. The question I pose is a simple one: Who the fuck is voting for this guy?
There is a secondary question waiting in the wings – exactly WHY would anyone vote for such an obvious fraud and a dangerous, hateful buffoon – but it would seem that the first order of business is to identify the “who” before getting into the “why.”
I should note that I have uncovered some indications that I am on the right track in trying to identify the Silent 25. An article yesterday (8/29/16) by Heather R. Higgins in the National Review begins with this concession: “Trump’s voters (and many are staying mum) are well aware of his flaws and might carry him to victory anyway.” (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/439451/donald-trump-will-win-five-reasons-why) (Emphasis added.)
This is a close as I’ve come to reading an out-and-out concession that a Silent 25 exists at all (as contrasted, for example, by attributing the phenomenon to a simple matter of piss-poor arithmetic on my part). And regardless of how one might question the credibility of the avowedly partisan editorial posture of the National Review, Ms. Higgins analysis seems cogent as to the question of why Trump is garnering votes very much in spite of what crazy, irredeemable crap he utters.
In addition, a look at populism (a far too polite a word to describe the movement), and fascism and xenophobia throughout the world through the lens of history also helps explain the phenomenon of support for Trump at a “gut” level, with its thrust-jawed defiance of reason, logic or any other of those uppity, “think-y” things.
Further examination of this “why” must wait, however, and should probably be reserved for a postmortem analysis of the 2016 US presidential election. An exception might be made to the extent that understanding the “why” might yield access to the tools of persuasion to those for whom reason and common sense apparently hold no sway. How can the evident fraud and peril (of a Trump presidency) be conveyed to those who not only won’t employ the think-y part of their brain, but rather openly reject and denigrate any such suggestion?
Personally, I am going to hold onto my belief that rational thought is not in any conceivable way an un-American aspiration, a notion that sometimes seems to lie at the heart of anti-intellectualism.
Meanwhile, I am going to share some revised math in my identification of the Silent 25, drawn from conclusions reached over these past weeks pondering the question.
1) My original estimate of the percentage of hateful, racist, bigoted American was sadly probably too low. I had originally posited that such people – the David Dukes and the Aryan Nation crowd – amounted to only 5% to 15% of the U.S. population (or the voting public). It may be now time to abandon the idea of “only 5%” as hopelessly idealistic, however charming my naïveté.
So that number – the truly racist quotient – I’m going to say it is significantly higher. More’s the pity, but such ruminations or hand-wringing or what-have-you must be set aside for the moment, with an acknowledgement that we MUST as a nation later return to a searing self-examination of our inner racist, and we must do so soon. This is a national imperative.
The impact of upwardly modifying the racist quotient, as it relates to the Silent 25, is simple. If the number of actual racists is higher, then the percentage of unidentified Trump voters is correspondingly lower. The Silent 25 becomes the Silent 20 or the Silent 15 (percent).
2) The second flaw in my original calculus came in underestimating the percentage of died-in-the-wool Republicans who are voting (thus far) for Trump merely and perhaps solely because he is their party’s nominee.
I might be forgiven on this account owing to the fact that, as a lifelong independent voter – or in the California parlance, a “no-party-preference” voter – I had an insufficient appreciation of the power of party loyalty. It still seems a silly notion to me when taken to the extremes (such as now, when sticking by Trump merely because he’s the nominee means eschewing much of what the GOP purportedly stands for), but I acknowledge that my assessment that the total number of die-hard party loyalists accounts for no more than 10% or 15% of Trump voters failed to properly credit the power and hold that party loyalty has for party voters.
By way of relevant example, consider the (large) number of current Republican senators and congressmen who have openly expressed outrage (think Paul Ryan’s [this is a] “textbook definition of a racist comment” statement regarding Trump’s off-the-cuff comments on Judge Gonzalo Curiel), and who have disavowed any association with Trump’s latest outrageous uttering (e.g., his attack on gold-star family (the Khan’s)). Despite these efforts to disavow and distance themselves from Trump, many still say they will vote for him. They refuse to “endorse” him, but admit they will vote for him. (Newsflash: Publicly announcing that you’re voting for a candidate is an endorsement – the only quibble is one of degrees (of support).)
These two aforementioned adjustments (to the total number of racists and party loyalists) might alone account for the “missing” element of the Silent 25 – the “silent” part of my shorthand moniker. Thus, I was perhaps correct in identifying these two groups as primarily comprising the bulk of Trump supporters, but simply underestimated their numbers. Perhaps together they account for all 42-45% of voters supporting Trump.
I still think there remains a hidden demographic – separate from the racists and the party loyal – that yet needs to be identified. But enlarging the two groups already described might give us enough to work with, in terms of impacting the outcome of November’s election in a non-Four-Horsemen-Of-The-Apocalypse kind of way.
How? Well, for starters, let’s concede at the outset that the racists are fundamentally unreachable. Not to suggest than people are irredeemable*, but that, for purposes of the current election season, they’re gone from the rest of us.
*On the contrary, one need not look far to find inspiring examples of people who have come to enlightened points of view from way over at the other end of the spectrum. Take Robert Byrd, the long-time senator who transitioned from KKK membership to civil rights advocate and procedural rules mensch, or Malcolm X, who transitioned from a race-hating Nation of Islam leader to civil rights advocate while he garnered a profoundly different (and far more peaceful) world view through his personal understanding of Islam. For a somewhat less high-profile example, consider Norm Stamper the former Seattle Chief of Police and long-time San Diego Police executive – a self-professed spousal abuser and thuggish cop who became a serious and genuinely enlightened advocate of police reform, all from within an institution (police department(s)) that are structurally disinclined to foster any such enlightenment. The list is long and in each individual example we may find a basis to hope that any one individual may yet come into the light.
Acknowledging that the racist core is out of the mix (due to their entrenched inflexibility), attention must turn to the Republican party faithful, folks who might actually be persuaded by reason to relinquish hold of their notion of loyalty – at least for this election cycle – in favor of an endorsement of a less apocalyptic vision for our country’s future.
One last observation – or half-observation – about possible constituents of the Silent 25. There may well be those amongst his supporters who would reject – perhaps fervently – the suggestion that there is a racist bone in their body, but who nonetheless like what Trump is saying. Perhaps they are on the cusp of acknowledging their own inner racist, after which they might be free to reject it outright, or come clean and embrace it. Amongst these we must include some independent voters.
Some of these people might well be understood by considering the idea (and I’ve heard it repeatedly expressed in media interviews with voters), that folks can simultaneously love Trump’s promise to “build a wall” and not really give a shit whether he actually builds one. Just saying he will build the wall gives a voice to their feeling that something is not right in this country (and it’s probably the fault of foreigners, people other than us, and well, okay, people with brown skin, if you must ask).
I confess, I was astounded when I first heard of such people – how can someone not see how preposterous and ultimately ineffective such a wall would be in fact, for example? Later though, I came to understand why, in this instance, it truly isn’t about the truth or feasibility of such a proposal at all. It’s about an expression of frustration for things perceived to be out of one’s control, and thus not their fault (but someone else’s). That recognition alone has helped me understand the twisted-reason insanity of the “Build That Wall!” chanters at Trump rallies. Such voters may fall on either side of the overtly racist divide (i.e., some may yet be redeemed if persuaded that any number of the thousand other reasons Trump is unfit to be our president makes a vote for him a bridge too far.)
(Note: this is the demographic discussed in Heather Higgins piece for the National Review, referenced above. I am not endorsing this article or the problematic periodical in which it is published. I am seeking to be informed, and trying to understand a phenomenon I believe to be under-reported by traditional media/news organizations.)
Allow me to pause for one quick note about the logic and efficacy of persuasion based on notions contrary to reason or rationality. Consider this a footnote, and a place-holder for a later discussion, and skip ahead if you like.
An “argument” may well be persuasive, as is the case with Trump’s platform, despite the fact the (and possibly exactly because) it defies reason or is otherwise irrational. Such arguments can still be logical – and thus still comport with the basic structure of human thought – but not reasonable or rational. An argument based on faulty or false premises can yet still be logical (and thus persuasive). An argument can still conform to a basic “if → then” syllogism, even if the premises upon which the conclusion is based are false or untrue:
Consider the following syllogism (Note: I intentionally selected the hateful, offensive language in order to highlight the intersection of valid logic and racist ideologies):
All blacks steal.
Tyrone is black.
This sample argument follows the syllogistic structure of Modus Ponens:
If P, then Q.
Fleshed out it looks like this: If P1 (premise 1 – black), then Q (consequent1 – steal). P2 (Tyrone is black), therefore Q2 (Tyrone steals).
This basic syllogism is valid – meaning the conclusion follows from its premises – even though at least one of the premises is bullshit. The argument is also (intentionally) egregiously racist, even without the use of the (common African-American male) name Tyrone – itself a racist stereotype. I purposely chose to do so in to further emphasize the outrageous wrongness of this thinking, which can yet still be “logical.”
Reason and rationality, on the other hand I submit, require that the premises used to reach a conclusion be true. All blacks do not steal, of course, so the conclusion in that example is neither reasonable nor rational despite the fact that it is nonetheless logically valid.
This is one of the ways that poisonous thinking can infect the mind of otherwise reasonable people. Another is the employment of logical fallacies – arguments that sound logical/valid, but are not, in fact. Fallacies are logical slight of hand, distinct from conclusions reached by way of false premises. They are also the proper subject of another discussion entirely.
Both examples of faulty logic may be at work in the minds of Trump voters or inherent in the arguments he presents, and we need not specifically identify which is used when at this time. Suffice is to note that there is yet some structure to damaged thinking and arguments that allows people to reach the conclusions they do and indeed, feel justified and correct in doing so.
I digress. The logical underpinnings of flawed reasoning is critical to understanding the entirety of the challenge facing those of us who might hope to continue to live in a relatively free society. But that analysis goes to the “why” part of the equation, not the “who” that I have been attempting to address here. And the “who” of it seems to be of primary importance at this stage of things.
Whoever they are, these Silent 25, they must be swiftly identified. We’re at something like 70 days and counting to Election Day. Once identified, these voters ought to be gently urged to come out of the darkness of their worst instincts, and into the light. Let’s encourage them to vote for that third-party Republican (whose name I might have more at hand if the media would give him anything more than fleeting attention). Or to vote Libertarian (or the Green Party, for that matter). Tell them to hold their nose if need be and vote for Her (I will be doing so, albeit very, very reluctantly. And if I can, they can). Let us all – all who can be reasoned with – please feed the Ego Goblin no longer.
One final note that is more of a post-script than anything. I have heard recent mention of so-called undecided voters still out there. I call bullshit. If you are still undecided in this election, when faced with this looming, genuine peril, and having been presented with a many-months stream of irrefutable evidence of same, you’re either an asshole or you’re being disingenuous and coy. Make up your mind. Either take up the “Build That Wall!” chant or join the resistance, but don’t pretend you haven’t yet decided. And if you truly, really, really, haven’t decided, well then: Decide. Enough.
Donald Trump in all of this is largely irrelevant, the sideshow he has only ever been. Those who care about the outcome of this election (and not in a “what-the-hell, let’s-roll-the-dice-on-the-neo-fascist” kind of way) should endeavor to find the Silent 25 and bring them into the warm fold of reason. Whether we’re discussing a Silent 25 or a Silent 10, these hidden voters still hold the key to this election and quite possibly the future of democracy in our great nation.
We are all called upon to do everything within our power to prevent the looming calamity that is a #CinnamonHitler presidency.
San Diego, California
September 15, 2016
A Watershed Moment
We have arrived at a watershed moment. In my continuing examination of the makeup of Donald Trump’s constituency – those voters who have kept his polling numbers at around 40% for most of the year – the flood gates of information have finally opened. I had begun to think they never would, and that these musings would be mine alone top ponder as I paddle about these still backwaters of Twitter and Tumblr (the prior host of my musings).
To recap, my original proposition divided his constituency into three groupings:
1) racists and/or white supremacists;
2) died-in-the-wool Republicans who will vote for their party’s nominee come hell or high water, and
3) a third group, comprised of an as-yet-uncategorized set of voters that I dubbed the Silent 25.
I chose that moniker because their yet-to-be-identified quality suggests their silence, not perhaps unlike Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority from back in the day. The Silent 25 are to be distinguished from undecided voters precisely because I’m talking about those Trump supporters who have already thrown their vote his way, thus contributing in some part to Trump’s 40% polling numbers.
They are the Silent 25 because that was the approximate percentage I ascribed to this unnamed group, very roughly calculating that they made up 20-25% of the 40-45% support that Trump continues to receive in the polls. I arrived at that number by subtracting the abject racists contingent and die-hard Republicans from the 40-45% of total supporters, the remainder being approximately 25%.
I initially surmised that this silent demographic held the key to this election. I have not wavered in this assessment. The Silent 25 are key because neither the hardcore white-power crowd, nor the Vote-Republican-All-The-Way crowd will likely change their own vote, nor might they otherwise be persuaded not to vote Trump. As I estimated these two identified constituencies comprise only 20-25% of Trump’s 40% polling, it stands to reason that, without the Silent 25, Trump would be en route to a landslide loss of near-epic proportions. Indeed, if the first two groups comprised his entire voting block, he would not likely have survived the Republican primary process.
In other words, we are where we are today in this Election precisely because of the votes for Trump the Silent 25 contribute.
Two things have occurred over the past weekend that have, perhaps inadvertently, brought my questions and issues into the glare of the national stage lights. And though the topic of the Silent 25, in and of themselves, is not yet receiving specific focus, the national conversation has finally swung, for the first time, in the direction of the makeup of Trump’s support.
The Basket of Deplorables
The first event, an actual news event itself, is the now famous statement Hillary Clinton made on Friday, describing what she called “the basket of deplorables.”
“I know there are only 60 days left to make our case – and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, well, he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.
“But the other basket – and I know this because I see friends from all over America here – I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas – as well as, you know, New York and California – but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”
[Full text of HRC’s speech found here: http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-transcript-clinton-s-full-remarks-as-1473549076-htmlstory.html]
This is the true watershed moment, and setting aside the question of whether HRC’s statement was one of mere candor (i.e., stating the unspoken obvious) or whether it was a genuine gaffe, (or a candid, tactical gaffe, or what-have-you) – a debate that still rages in the “panel of experts” analysis on cable news – the national media’s attention now finally turned to the Trump voters themselves; who they are and in what percentages. (That is, to the extent they can resist their Pavlovian instinct to breathlessly report Trump’s latest outrageous statement or clusterf*ck of revelations (e.g., medical reports, tax returns, etc.)
In the second paragraph of the transcript of HRC’s speech, she attempts to identify another “basket” – another segment of Trump’s support – perhaps even my Silent 25.
For what it’s worth, from my perspective the statement isn’t nearly the gaffe that the pearl-clutching media has made it out to be. I say this for two primary reasons: 1) I believe she’s absolutely correct in identifying and characterizing a portion of Trump supporters in this way. These people are real. They actually exist, and their words and actions have been repeatedly documented on video tape and screen-captures. (We set aside for the moment the question of percentages, of exactly how many of Trump voters fall into her basket, though we must return to this question eventually.)
The second reason, and the most important reason why I don’t believe her statement to be a gaffe is 2) the Deplorables are never going to vote for Hillary Clinton, not ever. Not in this lifetime or the next. They are decidedly “Not With Her.” For different reasons, they are all #NeverHillary. As a practical matter, as all vote-counting boils down to eventually, she cannot possibly alienate people who were never going to vote for her in the first place.
They are alienated from the get-go.
No Aryan youth is going to hear her statement, any statement by her, and say “that’s it, now I’m REALLY not voting for her.” In fact, some see it as a badge of honor, as it were. They’re printing it on t-shirts!
On the other hand, there are those like me who are grateful that this reality is now being talked about openly, and thus grateful to her. Similarly, there may be those on the edges, the reluctant Trump voters (including some mostly-die-hard Republicans), who might start thinking about edging further away from a dark constituency that Trump has not only embraced, but has actively and repeatedly courted.
The Floodwaters of Change
In the aftermath of this watershed moment has come the floodwaters of change in the wake of the broken dam. There are now numerous articles and (gasp!) actual polling data that endeavor peer into the mindsets of the Trump voter, to understand who they are.
It is difficult to deny the fundamental truth of the Basket of Deplorables when polling data shows that a majority of Trump voters (and Republicans more broadly) think deporting Muslims is a good idea, or that 40% of all Republicans and roughly sixty percent of Trump supporters still think Obama is a secret Muslim (66%) and wasn’t born in the United States (59%) (despite all evidence to the contrary); proof positive of the “fact-free reality distortion bubble” often alluded to or suggested in various writings.
For starters, the following are great places to take a closer look at the various polling numbers that help establish the undeniable truth (of racism and hate) underlying at least some portion of Trump’s support:
Judd Legum/Think Progress on May 2016 Public Policy Polling data
Reuters June 2016 Polling Data:
NBC News Polling
Greg Sargent/Washington Post examines Poll Numbers
So we have some actual numbers to work with, which is fantastic. I have been waiting to hear such all these several months now, frustrated that there was a void in the press/media coverage of the subject. I don’t know why we’re reading about some of this stuff only just now, when the polls were taken as early as May and June of this year, but regardless, in the wake of HRC’s watershed moment, that information is here now in abundance. It’s like Christmas.
In addition, we now have the attention of reporters, writers and columnists directed towards this vital subject. Writers, I might add, with skill sets and craft so excellent that they sometimes leave me speechless. Analysis, reasoning, applied critical thinking all poured into words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs of such eloquence. Apt, fluent and fluid. And more than just serious chops, these members of the press also have access to a reporter’s tool set – contacts, the inherent power of the name of the publication for which they write to open doors, get phone calls returned, etc. These are tools that might enable them to more directly root out more and better information on this critical topic.
Writers such as Judd Legum (Think Progress), Ezra Klein (Vox), Joan Walsh (The Nation), Greg Sargent (Washington Post), Carlos Maza (Media Matters), Charles P. Pierce (Esquire), Jamelle Bouie (Slate), and Brian Beutler (New Republic), have all come out with recent pieces on the makeup of Trump’s support, and the political press’ handling (or mishandling) the campaign – a closely-related subject of perhaps equal importance – in the aftermath of HRC’s comments.
A couple of sparkling gems:
Matthew Yglesias, Hillary Clinton’s Basket of Deplorables, Explained
Note: Yglesias’ piece is notable not only for its nuanced and expansive analysis of the now suddenly iconic phrase, but also because he includes numerous references to other writers, think pieces and articles, for further elaboration.
Brian Beutler, Hillary’s “Deplorables” Barb Wasn’t a Gaffe—But the Trump Campaign’s Response Was
Another writer, Dara Lind (writing for Yglesias’ publication Vox), has even jumped ahead to suggest that calling such people a basket of deplorables is one step behind where the discussion should be, or a step backwards even.
Her piece is brilliant… radiant, but I don’t think she gives enough credit to the necessity of taking the first step of calling them what they are (a basket of deplorables). HRC hasn’t taken a step backwards in naming the basket thus, her depiction is the first step towards that national conversation on race that I first suggested was imminent, vital, and necessary at the end of my August 17, 2016 post. It is a conversation that Ms. Lind so eloquently writes about in considerable nuanced detail.
Hers’ is a discussion of the conversation to come, the one that we as a nation need to engage in, and soon. But her recognition of this need does not invalidate the contribution HRC’s Basket of Deplorables which has put the whole issue into play.
The national media is still trying to wrap their TV-addled heads around the very idea that HRC should say out loud what every thinking person in this country and around the world already knows to be true. (Is it a gaffe? How big? Did she blow the election? The emperor has no clothes! Baaaa!)
Let’s give them time to catch up, then we can move on to that discussion of much greater historical significance – how far we haven’t actually come from our own vile history of enslaving other humans and building an economy around such a practice to the significant financial benefit of a few select white men.
By the way, if you are in need of further convincing of the existence of a seamy racist, hateful underbelly of Trump’s support, further evidence can be found here (and here and here), for starters:
1) New York Times video from various Trump Rallies across the country (troublesome to watch, but undeniable):
2) Here’s a link the (short) New York Times article accompanying the above video clip of Trump Rallies, by Ashley Parker, Nick Corasaniti and Erica Berenstein, titled “Voices From Donald Trump Rallies, Uncensored”:
3) Or who can forget this Trump bro, captured on camera by independent photojournalist Eric Rosenwald, at a Trump Rally in Arizona. This clip has received over 1 million views on YouTube:
4) Finally, I offer you Henry J. Gomez for your consideration. Writing for cleveland.com, he shares some of the mail he has received over the year from Trump supporters, charming, all of them:
Watching those clips of actual supporters, at actual Trump rallies, and reading Mr. Gomez’ fan mail can leave no doubt. Let us deny it no further.
In any event, I personally need no further convincing, but feel free to root around the web for more evidence, there is unfortunately plenty more where that came from.
Shades of Racism
I want to return to Dara Lind’s piece on racism for a moment: Her analysis is not wrong. There are many shades of racism, and many nuanced flavors saturate Trump’s support above the David Duke/KKK level of abject racism. But the gutter racism is real, it’s present, and moreover, it supports Donald Trump. This lot is demonstrably thrilled that Trump has empowered them to be more vocal.
There is a memo circulating currently – I can’t seem to put my hands on the link at the moment – penned by a Neo-Nazi organization leader opining how the 2016 election is a “win/win” for their movement; if Trump wins, they will have access to the President of the United States through which they can advance their agenda. If Trump loses on the other hand, it will be a great opportunity to put blame for the loss on Jews. Yes, that’s what was written. Assuming the was an actual document by an actual white pride type organization (and unquestionably such groups have been emboldened by Trump’s candidacy to commit such overt comments to paper), scant little else by way of evidence of a core of Trump’s support is necessary.
In any event, perhaps the key to unlocking the multi-layered mystery of Trump’s seemingly bloated support percentages in the polls lies with, as Lind’s essay alludes, these people who hold these shades-of-gray racist notions, rather than those who would shout out “fuck those beaners!” at a Trump rally. Perhaps the nuanced national discussion about race cannot wait because the racist-view-holding portion of his constituency is a core part of the Silent 25.
It remains far more important now to keep our attention on the makeup of Trump’s constituency and to identify those capable of being persuaded what a truly catastrophic event a Trump presidency would be. For this country, for democracy, and for the world.
With any luck at all, the quest to quantify exactly what percentage of Trump voters fall into the Basket of Deplorables (Hillary herself conceded that characterizing their numbers as comprising “half” of Trump’s voters was “grossly overgeneralizing”) will give way to a further examination of the demographic(s) outside the basket, be it the other 50% or whatever percent.
My initial assessment/guesstimate of the numbers put the hardcore racists at between 5% (in retrospect, my optimistic fantasy number) and 15%. I put the die-hard GOP faithful numbers at another 5-10%. I have since updated those approximations (upwards), thus eating into the 25 part of the Silent 25, but I’ve said all along that regardless of the specific percentages, the Silent % exist – they’re real – and the fate of this country rests in their hands.
Let’s identify them and invite them over for coffee and a chat.
Passing the Torch
In sum, I think that this watershed moment permits me to say that my work here is largely done. I think it’s time (well past time, perhaps?) that I hand this issue off to the professionals, many of whom I have identified above. It was their absence, and the absence of any analysis of polling data on the subject of Trump’s supporters that led me to pick up this torch a couple of months ago in the first place.
But we should not be confused that, just because reinforcements have arrived, we can all relax. Read Brian Beutler’s piece from The New Republic in which he argues persuasively that, on the whole, the national political media is ill-equipped to deal with an existential threat to democracy unless that threat directly threatens the media’s own self-interests like access to news source material, etc.
In short, there are yet turbulent times ahead. We must all remain vigilant together, and active, in these, the end of days.
I remain steadfast in my belief that these are extraordinary times, where we might all be wise to proceed with the utmost caution (“wary as a winter traveler on an icy stream” – Lao Tzu), while nonetheless shout from the rooftops, chat up neighbors, engage online, write and tweet like there’s no tomorrow (because indeed, there may well not be with a Trump administration). We should all endeavor to do all of these things today, before engaging in such conduct become illegal under the Trump’s Correct American Thought and Speech Act of 2017.
October 24, 2016
Postscript: The Silent 25
I all but handed off my pursuit of the Silent 25 in my last missive – bowing to professional journalists, who have better access to data and live sources and such. With less than three weeks until election day, the quest is largely moot in any event.
I will make two final observations however, before moving on to greener writing pastures. The first is that I remain curious at the overall lack of intellectual curiosity in the news media at large about the broad constituency of support for Donald Trump. I stand by my analysis that 15-25% of his support is largely unaccounted for, and I would think that, apart from identifying this demographic for partisan/advocacy reasons (as in, there must be some way to communicate the lunacy of voting for a serial liar who traffics in the language of hate), figuring out who comprises the gray area of his support is of vital importance for broader sociological, philosophical and political demographic reasons: Donald Trump represents a significant change in who we are as a nation, and who we are as a people.
I remain steadfast in my belief that the enduring story of this election is not the man himself, who is and will ever remain a charlatan and a buffoon, tortured by psychological deficiencies by the, well… basketful. The real story is the people who support Donald Trump, and the notion of Trump-ism itself, as an actual thing.
I imagine there will be significant attention given to fleshing out the various subcategories of his constituency in the aftermath of the election, if only for the more pedestrian purposes of providing future politicians and their advisers a more precise understanding of the electorate going forward. But for one, that’s far to late to prevent anyone from reaching out to this amorphous demographic prior to this coming 2016 election.
It also concentrates the inquiry and frames it in terms of a purely utilitarian application – a tool to hone and craft future campaigns with an eye almost exclusively towards garnering more votes for one party or another.
In that way, the broader sociological and philosophical questions will largely be ignored or overlooked. We should not be mistaken that Trumpism unveils a curious and dangerous phenomenon in 21st century man (or at least 21st century Western man): people who willingly untether truth from truth. Untethered from any anchor in reality, truth takes on a fundamentally different meaning. The implications of this phenomenon are both ghastly and far-reaching.
A discussion for another time.
The second observation comes from an article on Vox.com by Andrew Prokop, in which he writes:
“…Trump has a hard core of support that now makes up about two-thirds to three-quarters of the Republican electorate – but only one-third of the general electorate.”
Prokop continues by drawing the following conclusion from these numbers:
“So most of the Republican Party’s most loyal base voters (and a clear majority of its primary voters) do not look kindly on party elites who try to throw Trump under the bus.
“All along, this has prevented the party from acting decisively with regards to Trump’s takeover. In the most charitable interpretation, this state of affairs ties GOP officials’ hands because they don’t want to defy the will of their party’s voters, as expressed in a democratic process. They are, after all, supposed to represent the people. Attempting to crush the Trump insurgency from the top down could just end up inflaming the anti-establishment mood even further.
“The less charitable interpretation is that the GOP elites are cravenly trying to protect their own careers. They fear losing in future primaries if they abandon Trump in his moment of need. They fear losing in the general election if Trump’s prospects are so poor that they significantly depress GOP base turnout. And they fear being attacked by Trump himself.”
Andrew Prokop, The Sorry State Of The Republican Party Right Now, In One Tweet (October 10, 2016), Vox.com. http://www.vox.com/2016/10/10/13227220/trump-republican-party-civil-war?
Analysis of the present state of the Republican Party aside, the numbers Prokop relies upon go a long way towards explaining the Silent 25 by simply expanding the core of Trump supporters (which I previously identified as hardcore racists and GOP party loyalists) so as to encompass the entirety of Trump’s 40-42% polling.
(Note: his authority for these numbers derive from two polls: an NBC/WSJ poll/questionnaire asking whether the party should continue to support the nominee, and a Politico/Morning Consult poll, both apparently conducted in the immediate aftermath of the release of the Trump/Billy Bush video. Links to each poll can be found in the original Vox article.)
Whether or not Prokop’s piece provides a complete explanation of the Silent 25, the numbers represent, at the very least, the first plausible explanation.
And with that, I now turn my attention to more pressing matters, like just how sick and wrong was last night’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead?
San Diego, CA
November 9, 2016
Aftermath: The Day After The Earth Stood Still
It’s November 9, 2016 in America. I going to go ahead and assume that this blog has never seen, read or considered by anyone. I certainly have not ever received a breath of feedback on anything I’ve written in this space. Perhaps it wasn’t comment-worthy. No matter – I wasn’t in it for the likes.
My point is, nobody took seriously my inquiry into the Silent 25 (of Trump’s support), nor validated to me that any concern I raised had any merit.
Yet now that Silent 25 has reared up and elected that miserable son of a bitch. Would that my voice had not been an empty cry in the wilderness; that someone had given enough of a shit to look into it further. Not based on my writings, perhaps, but based on the phenomenon of the Silent 25 as it was capable of being observed “in the wild,” as it were.
Trump’s election was decidedly NOT the kind of validation I was seeking, if indeed I was seeking any validation at all, and not just blowing off steam while honing and practicing my craft of writing. But it seems we will be living with the consequences of the absence of any pre-election critical analysis for a long time to come. Four years, to be sure, but with the likely changes to the Supreme Court and existing laws, probably for the rest of my life.
More’s the pity.
San Diego, CA